A letter of wishes is a document which is not legally binding, but it accompanies your Will. This can be used as a guide for your executors and trustees to ensure that they are aware of your personal wishes.
The Letter of Wishes can also be known as an Expression of Wishes, Letter of Last Wishes or Statement of Wishes.
A Letter of Wishes is suitable for people who live in England, Wales, Northern Ireland or Scotland.
You can include almost anything in a Letter of Wishes, including your specific personal wishes, and guidance as to how best to carry them out.
Common uses for a Letter of Wishes include:
You should ensure that the Letter of Wishes does not contradict your Will. If it were to do so, your Will (as a legally-binding document) would be followed instead.
The Letter of Wishes should be stored with your Will, or accompany it in a safe place (that your executor(s) knows about), but should not be attached to your Will in any way, as it could invalidate it.
The document should be written in plain English, and can either be written by hand or typed. You should sign and date the document, but it must not be witnessed in the same way as your Will, so as to avoid any possible claims that it has become a legal Will or Codicil. If you are unsure what to write, you can start with an initial draft which you can share with one of our legal team to translate into a letter of wishes for you to approve.
The wording of the Letter of Wishes should be as clear and concise as possible, to avoid any possible misinterpretation. Surviving relatives may feel their circumstances justify a departure from the Letter of Wishes - however, a clearly written Letter of Wishes would assist your executors in proving that they are following your wishes. The Letter of Wishes would be used by your executor to defend any claim against your estate in Court, as evidence of your intentions.
As a Letter of Wishes is not legally-binding, it does not have to be followed. You should choose executors/trustees that you trust to follow your wishes as closely as possible.
Your Will could become a public document if it goes to probate, whereas your Letter of Wishes remains confidential. Understandably, many people would prefer that their personal wishes remain private.
Your Will also needs to follow the legal format, or it may become invalid. The information in a Letter of Wishes is also subject to change, which means you won’t have to make a new Will every time you update your wishes.
As the Letter of Wishes is not legally binding and a Will is, you should ensure that you have a Will in place. The Letter of Wishes simply accompanies your Will to provide guidance to your executors.
Contact Wills.Services today to speak to our specialist team, who can assist with your Letter of Wishes.